A report by the Times
has cast serious doubt on the viability of the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The Games were originally scheduled to run last summer but were postponed to this year due to the Coronavirus. However, the State of Emergency declared last month in Tokyo, alongside hospital bed occupancy in 19 of Japan’s 47 prefectures reaching stage 4 – the most critical level – with the highest numbers concentrated in Tokyo, means that the Games are in danger of not going ahead once more in 2021.
The Times is reporting that an unnamed senior member of the ruling coalition has said, "No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it’s too difficult. Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen." The source implies that the prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, has given up hope on the Games and they are also unpopular with the Japanese population, as opinion polls show that 80 percent of Japanese people are against the Games going ahead in July and August.
Japan has rejected these claims with a public reply to the report on Friday. It said, “All our delivery partners including the national government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the IOC and the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) are fully focused on hosting the Games this summer. We hope that daily life can return to normal as soon as possible, and we will continue to make every effort to prepare for a safe and secure Games."
IOC president, Thomas Bach, added, “We have at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July in the Olympic stadium in Tokyo. This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these Games safe and successful.”
Earlier in the week, Sir Keith Mills, the former chief executive of the London 2012 Olympics, told the BBC
, "If I was sitting in the shoes of the organising committee in Tokyo, I would be making plans for a cancellation... They've got another month or so before they need to make a call." However, Japan has reportedly spent at least $25 billion on the Games so far and will be keen to recoup that cost if possible. IOC member Dick Pound previously suggested that athletes could get priority vaccines
to ensure the Games go ahead while a televised Games behind closed doors
has also been suggested. However, this would mean that the Japanese authorities would lose out on generating money from ticket sales.
It seems that postponing to 2022 will not be a possibility for the Games either. Pound told the BBC
, "What we do know is 2021 is our last chance. It's not something we can put off until 2022 or 2023. I don't think it's fair to expect Japan to keep the balls in the air any longer." Instead, Japan may now be looking to use its infrastructure for a future Games. In 2024 the Olympics will be held in Paris, followed by Los Angeles in 2028 but the 2032 Games do not currently have a host city. The Times source said, "[The Government] want to show that they are ready to go, so that they will get another chance in 11 years. In these circumstances, no one could really object to that."
It is most likely that the decision to run the Games or not will be down to national governing bodies. The original postponement of the Games
was triggered when both Australia and Canada said they would not be sending any athletes. If any similar-sized nations declared the same this year we imagine that would be the death knell for the 2021 Games.
Athletes will only be hoping for an answer one way or another as soon as possible so they have the most time possible to tailor their training to the year ahead. We'll keep you updated with the status of the Olympics as it develops.